Bulking diet plan for vegetarian is a term which most of the people don’t know. Bulking is the process of gaining an excess weight that has fat in it but not the weight made up of muscles or protein and other nutrients. Bulking isn’t like getting in shape to fight or do competitive sports, where you require good amount of muscular and protein build ups. If your requirement is only to gain up some pounds that are healthy then Bulking diet plan for vegetarian will work out just fine
How to Build Muscle on a Vegetarian Diet
You don’t need to eat meat to build muscle and get strong. Follow these 9 simple suggestions to increase your muscle protein synthesis and build lean body mass on a vegetarian diet.
It’s a common misconception that it is difficult to build muscle on a vegetarian diet. After all, a chicken breast or steak provides much more protein per ounce than beans or whole grains. But building muscle as a vegetarian is absolutely doable.
Vegetarians need to pay attention to a few important key aspects of the diet in order to build muscle. This article will help any vegetarian create a plan to build muscle and become the strongest version of themselves.
Why does muscle do?
Before we discuss the how, you might be wondering why you should care about building muscle. As a runner, I made the crucial mistake of ignoring strength training and focusing on just logging mileage.
While that builds muscle in the legs, it doesn’t create strength throughout the entire body. Increasing your lean muscle mass is a worthwhile goal for several reasons, such as:
- Muscle burns more calories than fat, so increases in lean body mass can speed up your metabolism.
- More muscle mass means you will have a lower overall body fat percentage.
- Strength training helps you build stronger bones AND muscles.
- More muscles can make it easier to perform daily activities, such as carrying multiple grocery bags or opening a stubborn jar of pickles.
Why is protein important?
Protein is the building block for muscle, and eating it is essential for increasing muscle. When you exercise, your muscles go through a breakdown process. Eating enough protein is necessary to help repair and build the muscle.
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As a vegetarian, the sources of protein in your diet will differ from the average person consuming meat. Plant-based proteins include beans, lentils, whole grains (like quinoa, brown rice and farro), nuts, seeds, soy products, and dairy. Plant-based protein powders can also be a source of protein for the busy athlete but are certainly not necessary to meet protein needs as a vegetarian.
Tips for plant-based eaters
While protein sources may differ between meat-eaters and vegetarians, most other recommendations for building lean body mass are the same for both groups. These tips will help you increase your muscle in no time.
How To Build Muscle On A Vegetarian (or Vegan) Diet
1. Figure out your protein needs
Protein is a hot topic right now, but the daily requirement is actually much less than you may think. The Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) for protein is a modest 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight or 0.36 grams per pound – the best way to calculate the minimum amount of protein your body needs (in grams) is to multiply 0.36 by your body weight.
For a 150-pound person, that’s only 54 grams of protein per day! Athletes need a bit more protein, around 1.2 to 2.0 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight per day, or 0.5 to 1.0 grams per pound. That’s about 75 to 150 grams of protein for a 150-pound person.
2. Eat different types of protein throughout the day
For optimal muscle growth, aim to eat 20-30 grams of protein at each main meal. Vegetarian foods that pack a protein punch include:
Beans & Lentils
Versatile and nutritious, beans and lentils provide up to 15 grams of protein per cup when cooked. Use dried beans and your slow cooker to make these Vegan Tacos with Walnuts. Or try lentils in a Moroccan Lentil Soup or Greek Lentil Power Bowl.
A cup of milk provides 8 grams of protein, and the protein in ½ cup of Greek yogurt or cottage cheese is closer to 12-15 grams. My favorite way to use yogurt is in a smoothie, like this Sunshine Smoothie.
Soy milk packs just as much protein as dairy milk, and other soy foods, like tofu and tempeh, have up to 10-12 grams of protein per cup. Check out these 17 Tofu Recipes of 14 Tempeh Recipes!
sushiAlong with many other nutrients, whole grains add a surprising source of protein to the diet. Among grains with the highest protein levels are quinoa and whole wheat pasta (8 grams per cup), old-fashioned or steel cut oats (5 grams per ½ cup), and whole wheat bread (5 grams per slice). Quinoa is a great base for a salad, like this simple one with black beans and a honey-lime vinaigrette. Or make It a vegan sushi night with this quinoa bowl.
Nuts & Seeds
Making a great addition to salads, smoothies, and yogurt, nuts and seeds also contribute a good amount of protein. Examples include hemp seeds (10 grams per 3 Tablespoons), almonds (6 grams per ounce), and peanut butter (4 grams per Tablespoon). Whip up these Cinnamon Roasted Almonds for a yummy mid-day snack.
3. Plan your meals to include protein
Consuming protein from a variety of sources helps you get a range of nutrients in your diet.
For example, you might eat a bowl of oatmeal with walnuts and a glass of milk at breakfast, a black bean quesadilla for lunch, and a salad with hemp seeds, tofu, and a hard-boiled egg for dinner. These meals alone provide over 60 grams of protein!
If you throw in snacks such as Greek yogurt and a peanut butter sandwich, that number jumps up to nearly 100 grams – an amount of protein that would easily meet the needs of a 150-pound person looking to build lean body mass!
4. Don’t be afraid of carbohydrates
Carbohydrates are essential and provide energy for all sorts of activities. If you limit carbs, you will not be able to perform at your best or build lean body mass efficiently. Aim to make 45-60% of your diet come from carbs.
5. Eat complementary proteins
Amino acids are the building blocks of protein. The body can make some amino acids, but it relies on the foods you eat to supply other amino acids. The ones it cannot make are called ‘essential amino acids’. Why am I telling you this?
There are two types of protein– ‘complete protein’, which contains the 9 essential (the ones the body cannot make) amino acids and ‘incomplete protein’, which does not have all 9 amino acids. Most plant-based proteins are incomplete, except for quinoa, soy, hemp, and chia. In comparison, ALL animal proteins are complete proteins.
Since most vegetarian proteins, such as beans, lentils, and brown rice are incomplete, it’s important to pair them with other foods to make a complete protein. Pairing two or more vegetarian sources together so that they provide the essential amino acids is referred to as ‘complementary proteins’.
Some pairings that make complementary plant-based proteins are:
- Beans and rice
- Nut butter and whole grain bread
- Lentil and barley
- Hummus and pita
- Oats and almonds
6. Vary your workouts
Regardless of how much protein you consume, building muscle without lifting weights or doing some other form of strength training is nearly impossible. If you primarily focus on cardio workouts, try adding some form of strength or bodyweight activities to your routine. If you are new to strength training, you can try out a circuit class, find a personal trainer, or watch YouTube videos to get started.
7. Don’t skimp on iron
While there are plenty of vegetarian iron sources, plant-based sources of iron are not absorbed as well as animal sources. Iron plays a main role in carrying oxygen throughout the body and making red blood cells. If you don’t eat enough iron, your body can’t make enough healthy oxygen-carrying red blood cells, which could potentially lead to iron deficiency anemia. Long story short, stock up on those iron sources such as legumes, lentils, nuts, seeds, and leafy greens.
8. Include snacks in your diet
Believe it or not, the average American consumes just as many snacks as meals each day. But most snack foods are rich in carbs and low in protein. Make sure you’re getting enough protein at snacktime with these options:
- Hard boiled eggs
- Nut butter with sliced fruit or veggie sticks
- Chocolate milk
- Roasted chickpeas
- Hummus and veggies
- Cottage cheese on a whole wheat English muffin
- Chia seed pudding
- Guacamole & veggies
- Loaded oatmeal
9. Track your intake
If you’re doing all of the above and are still not seeing results, you may be skimping on protein or taking in more calories than you need. If you’re not sure how much protein you’re getting on a daily basis, try tracking your food intake with an app like MyFitnessPal.
Tracking calories can be an efficient tool to assess overall protein, carbs and fat intake. It’s not something you need to continue long term, but even tracking for 5-7 days can open your eyes to how much or little you’re consuming. (Note: if you have an eating disorder or history, tracking calories is not advised.)
The Very Best Vegan Bulking Diet; 4-week Meal Plan and Guide to Achieve Your Gaining Goals
‘Vegan’ and ‘bulking’ aren’t generally two words we associate with each other. Given that the clichéd stereotype of a vegan is someone who chooses their diet based on ethical and environmental reasons, not for aesthetics or size. With this being said, you can of course gain weight whilst following a vegan diet, it just takes a little creativity and consistency.
So, can I gain muscle and bulk up on a vegan diet?
Absolutely! With the culture and popularity of plant-based diets ever-growing by the day, as does the number of athletes and bodybuilders choosing to follow a vegan diet. Whether you’re a seasoned pro looking to ‘bulk’ off-season, or new to bulking and just trying to gain weight / muscle mass, it can seem a daunting task to bulk up without consuming any animal products. Especially as so many ‘gainers’ and protein products on the market are made using whey (derived from cows’ milk).
Protein is of particular importance when combined weight training to gain muscle mass. A 2017 study by the International Society for Sports Nutrition found that strength training athletes need close to 2g protein per kg bodyweight, compared to 0.8g per kg bodyweight for non-weight training adults (Rogerson, 2017).Fret not herbivores; all is not lost. It is absolutely possible to gain weight and muscle mass healthily and easily, without any animal products. See below our 12-step guide below to achieve the most successful vegan bulk:
TPW 12-step vegan bulking guide:
- Track your calories – with today’s technology, it couldn’t be easier to track your calories. As the goal is to gain weight, you need to eat in a calorie surplus, and therefore must start by establishing your maintenance weight (how many calories your body needs to maintain your weight). This will enable to you work out many more calories you need to increase this by in order to gain weight successfully. You can calculate your maintenance calories using our handy TPW Calorie Calculator . Now you’ve got your maintenance calories down, you need to increase this number by 20% to establish your surplus.
To keep track of this and ensure you are hitting your daily calorie goal, you can input your calorie goal into a calorie tracking app, such as MyFitnessPal (on this particular app you can do this from the ‘Nutrition Goals’ tab). Ensure you track your calories throughout the day to ensure you are hitting your 20% surplus and input any exercise you do to account for the calories you have burned.
- Track your macros – So, you’ve figured out your maintenance calories and added your surplus, but how many of those calories should be split into protein / carbs / fat? These three macronutrients are the biggest nutrient groups that make up our food. Whilst ‘a calorie is a calorie’ might be true for mere weight gain or loss, it is how these calories are spread into each macro group that will dictate how effectively your body builds are repairs muscle tissue. We could be here all day discussing the science of macros, but to keep things short and sweet, we have devised this optimal vegan macro split:
- Follow a high-protein diet of 1.6-2.2g or protein per kg of bodyweight
- Keep your fat intake moderate with around 20-30% of your calories coming from fat.
- Consume the remainder of your calories in the form of carbs.
Once you have established how much of these macronutrients you require a day, you can input these stats into the same app (just as you did with the calories on the ‘Nutrition Goals’ tab) that you are using to track calories (or similar calorie / macro tracker app if not using MyFitnessPal). This will make it easy for you to track your diet throughout the day to be sure you’re hitting your macro goals!
- Consistency is key – this goes for your diet, training and sleep. Ensure you stay on track of your diet (as discussed above) and are regularly strength training in order to gain maximum muscle gains. This being said, don’t overdo it! Training any more than 5x a week will put stress on your body and can hinder your gains. Your bulking efforts in the gym and the kitchen are to achieve your goal of muscle growth; however, in order for this to happen you must give your body chance to recover and your muscles chance to repair. This is where sleep comes into effect! Aim for a minimum of 6-8 hours of sleep at night to allow your muscles to repair and grow to their full effect.
- Good things come to those who wait – Successfully bulking takes time, even on a high-protein diet with animal products. Its therefore worth keeping in mind that it may take longer to bulk without animal products but do not be deterred or demotivated if you don’t see any change by week 2. You will need to create a calorie surplus, 20% higher than your maintenance calories’.
Simply increase your daily calorie surplus by an additional 200kcal and monitor if you see any changes. If still no change, increase your daily surplus by another 200kcal until you start to see results. Finding what works for you is really just a case of trial and error. Keep your end-goal in mind and trust the process – you’ve got this!
- Watch your portions – Just as with any non-vegan bulk, it’s recommended that you keep your potions large and your meals frequent, so you have a constant stream of nutrients to draw energy from all day. This doesn’t mean you have to stuff yourself sick! If you struggle with huge portions, make your meals smaller in size but ensure they are frequent and snack in between meals to hit your macros.
- High protein foods – yes, we know it goes without saying but ensuring you hit your daily protein goal is essential to see the best results from your efforts in the gym (and the kitchen)! A useful tip is to keep cooked lentils and black beans in the fridge at all times so you have a quick go-to when short of time. Beans are a fantastic muscle-building protein source and very versatile, so if in doubt, throw some beans in for good measure!
- Even more protein – got your blender at the ready? By far the easiest way to pack in plenty of plant protein is by blending a variety of sources into a nutritious shake. You don’t necessarily have to down the whole lot in one go either if you are struggling with the volume. You can have first thing half in the morning and save half for before bed to ensure you hit your protein goal with ease. See our TPW Big Fat Vegan Shake recipe in step 10 below for a calorie-dense shake to get a serious nutritional boost while getting those all-important calories in!
- Fake it ‘til you make it – No matter how organised you are, there will be times that you find yourself without the resources you need, or the required time to prepare a meal or shake from scratch. This is where protein shakes and mass gainers really come into their own. TPW Vegan Mass Gainer packs an incredible 549kcal and 39 protein per serving! So, life just got a lot easier. Simply, shake up with your favourite milk alternative or water and you’ve got a delicious and convenient nutrient hit. The perfect addition to any vegan bulk to make sure you get the results you want!
- Supplements – Anyone following a plant-based diet is recommended to supplement their diet with a multi-vitamin , vitamin B12 (due to lack of red meat) and vitamin D3 . It is also recommended to supplement your diet with Creatine (5g daily) and glutamine (5g daily) when bulking to gain optimal results. It’s also recommended to include a post-workout carbohydrate drink to deliver quick, post-workout carbs.
- Reduce or limit your cardio – An effective way to speed up your gains is to reduce (or completely exclude) cardio training to hold onto those precious calories you’re putting into your body. Hitting the recommended 10,000 steps a day won’t do you any harm at all, however long duration or high intensity cardio is a sure-fire way to torch off those precious surplus calories you’ve been putting in.
So, you would need to replace the calories burned during your workout in addition to your 20% surplus, meaning you just need to eat more food, so it’s your call! As mentioned in steps 1 and 2, if using a fitness app (such as MyFitnessPal) to track your macros, you can also use this to input your training (type, duration and intensity) to work out how many calories you burned. It will remove these from your daily calorie count so you know exactly how much more you need to eat to replace them!
- Healthy fats – Including plenty of avocado, coconut, flax seeds and chia seeds into your diet will help to protect and your cells. Try adding chia seeds to your shakes, or soups (anything with liquid), once it has been cooked or blended and after 10 minutes of soaking it will be ready. Chia pudding is an easy and delicious snack – simply soak chia seeds in your choice of plant-based milk (add a sliced banana, nuts, and a drizzle of your favorite flavor TPW Zero Syrup to take it to the next level)!
TPW Flax Seeds are another great source of healthy fats, however be sure to grind them up first or use powder such as TPW Flaxseed powder to reap the full benefits (which aren’t absorbed by the body when the seeds are in their whole form). See our TWP ‘Big Fat Vegan’ Shake recipe below for a delicious, high-calorie shake packed to the brim with healthy fats! You can also easily adapt this recipe by using different fruit, adding cacao powder, changing your milk-alternative or nut butter –variety is the key to making any bulk as enjoyable and sustainable as possible!
TPW ‘Big Fat Vegan’ shake – (approx. 1000 calories)
- 350ml unsweetened almond milk
- 2-3 tablespoons TPW almond butter or TPW peanut butter
- 1 tablespoon TPW flax seed powder
- 1 tablespoon TPW coconut oil
- 1 tablespoon flax seed oil
- 2 tablespoons chia seeds
- 2 scoops TPW vegan protein extreme powder (24 grams of protein per scoop)
- 1 teaspoon maca powder
- 1 banana
- 1 teaspoon TPW Zero Syrup in flavour of your choice – we love this shake with the maple syrup flavour.
12. Treat yourself! – As discussed in step 3, consistency is undoubtedly key to maximise the results of your bulk. However, it can be beneficial to include a ‘cheat meal’ or allow yourself an off-plan meal or sweet treat once a week. The incentive of having something you really crave to look forward to can provide a much-needed (and well-deserved) morale boost. This will make the bulking process more sustainable and enjoyable. One meal will not undo your progress, just as one meal won’t give you instant results. So, treat yourself – you deserve it!
TPW 4-Week Vegan Bulking Meal Plan
Our TPW nutritionists have devised this 4-week vegan bulking meal plan to make plant-based bulking a breeze! See below a wide selection of flavoursome and nutritious recipes you can mix and match to keep your meals interesting and (most importantly) enjoyable!
You may also add sauces and dressings to add more flavour and variety to your meals over the 4-week bulk, however be selective with what you choose (avoid sugar-laden sauces) and just be mindful of how much sauce or dressing you add!
Breakfast options – choose one from the following list each day.
- Tofu scramble with spinach, mushrooms and vegan cheese on toast (approx. 554 kcal)
- Large portion of granola, almond milk, handful of almonds, tbsp chia seeds and sliced banana (approx. 750 kcal)
- 1 or 2 bagels with peanut butter (approx. 380/760 kcal)
- TPW ‘Big Fat Vegan Shake’ (approx. 1000 kcal)
Morning meal/snack options – combine these to increase calories if needed
- TPW Vegan Protein Crunkies (approx.168 kcal each)
- TPW Vegan Mass Gainer (approx. 525 kcal)
- Handful of almonds (approx. 595 kcal per 100g)
- Hummus on 4 oatcakes (approx. 424 kcal)
- Soya or coconut yogurt with berries, seeds and mixed nuts (approx. 455 kcal)
- Apple with peanut butter (approx. 200 kcal)
- Small portion of veggie sausages, avocado, tomatoes and wholegrain rice (approx. 450 kcal)
- Kale Salad with Crispy Chickpeas and Spicy Tempeh Bits (approx. 500 kcal)
- Lentil soup with wholemeal bread roll (approx. 420 kcal)
- Vegan ‘chicken’ pieces, salsa, wholegrain rice and mixed peppers (approx. 720 kcal)
- Mixed bean chili wraps with avocado and vegan crème fraiche or yogurt (approx. 900 kcal)
- Falafel sandwich on wholemeal bread with tomatoes, cucumber, lettuce, 1 tbsp mango chutney, 2 tbsp herby vegan yogurt (approx. 600 kcal)
Snack options (select 1 or 2 daily depending on calories)
- Dark chocolate (approx. 65 kcal a square)
- TPW Vegan Meal Replacement shake made with 30g cashew butter and almond or soy milk (approx. 556 kcal)
- 130g mixed nuts (approx. 640 kcal)
- 3 TPW Pea Protein Tahini Truffles (approx. 180kcal)
- 150g sliced marinated tofu (approx. 160 kcal)
- 6 Falafels (approx. 350 kcal)
- Vegan sausage Jambalaya (Linda McCartney Chorizo and Red Pepper Sausages are the perfect flavour for this) with Cajun rice mixed with sweet potatoes, spinach and topped with sesame seeds (approx. 700 kcal)
- Meat-less balls (such as Linda McCartney’s), pasta and marinara sauce with vegan cheese (approx. 600 kcal)
- Black Bean Burritos in whole-wheat tortillas, black beans, mixed peppers, avocado, salsa, brown rice and jalapenos (approx. 520 kcal)
- Marinated Tofu Sub, sweet potato chips, guacamole dip (approx. 900 kcal)
- Lentil and Chickpea Samba Curry, served with rice or vegan naan/chapatti, soya yogurt raita and mango chutney
- TPW High-Protein Falafel Burger, on white or wholemeal burger bun, chips, cup of green beans (approx. 650 kcal)
- Super Green Chickpea pasta salad with olives, new potatoes, avocado, spinach, pasta with vegan pesto and olive oil dressing (approx. 600 kcal)
- Chili ‘sin’ carne with wholegrain rice and ½ avocado and vegan crème fraiche/yogurt on the side (approx. 700 kcal)
- Spicy Seitan Thai Fried Rice (approx. 700 kcal)
- BBQ vegan ‘pulled pork’ (such as Oumph) burger on whole wheat burger bun with chips (approx. 700 kcal).
Sample Vegetarian Muscle Building Meal Plan
Laid out below is a full day of eating for a vegetarian with the goal of building muscle. The day is laid out into 5 meals and 1 post workout shake.
- 1 tbs of olive oil
- 3 jumbo eggs
- 1 cup of instant oats (maple and brown sugar)
- 3 cups of cantaloupe
Meal 1 Nutrition Facts: 859 calories, 100g of carbs, 32g of fat, 35g of protein
- Vegetarian Quesadilla (linked above)
- 6oz of carrots
- 4tbsp of hummus
Meal 2 Nutrition Facts: 744 calories, 84g of carbs, 32g of fat, 72g of protein
Meal 3 (preworkout)
- Low Carb Broccoli Slaw Stir Fy (linked above)
- 1 cup of jasmine rice
- Natural Preworkout
Meal 3 Nutrition Facts: 690 calories, 103g of carbs, 16g of fat, 30g of protein
- 3 scoops Plant-based Protein
- 1 scoop Superfoods Formula
- 1 banana
- Water and ice as needed
Postworkout Nutrition Facts: 380 calories, 46g of carbs, 9g of fat, 31g of protein
- Vegetarian Shepherd’s Pie (linked above)
Meal 4 Nutrition Facts: 717 calories, 63 carbs, 34g of fat, 28g of protein
Meal 5 (Before Bed)
- 1 scoop casein
- 1oz raw almonds
Meal 5 Nutrition Facts: 290 calories, 7g of carbs, 15g of fat, 34g of protein
Daily totals: 3,680 calories, 402g of carbs, 139g of fat, 230g of protein
An inability to obtain enough protein and get enough calories to build muscle should never be a reason given for not trying out a vegetarian diet.
There are plenty of high protein plant-based sources out there and maintaining a diet void of animal protein is possible.
That said, even if you choose not to go full vegetarian or partially vegetarian, every single person can benefit from adding more veggies to his or her diet.
Do you have any other tips for those considering a plant based diet? Got any additional vegetarian-friendly recipes you’d like to share? Drop them in the comments section below so we can check them out!